LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – COVID-19 cases are rising in Arkansas and hospitalization numbers tend to follow afterward. 

More people in the hospital means more work being done by hospital staff.

“Obviously utilization of supplies is increased so we are using more masks than ever, we’re using more gloves than ever, we’re using more isolation gowns than ever,” Corporate VP of Baptist Health Lisa Farmer said.

Farmer handles the supply chain for Baptist Health.  She acquires everything for the hospital system.  From gloves and masks to implants to the various gasses used like oxygen.

Baptist Health is not immune to supply chain issues that permeate everyday life now.

She looks at it as a constant battle to make sure they have what they need.

“I kind of look at my job as a roller coaster ride every day I never know how when they when the curves are coming are when the dips or the high drops there it’s everything,” Farmer explained.

She has deals in place with manufacturers but there are still times when supplies are limited, such as the Omicron spike that is ongoing.

She will find other, smaller manufacturers to try and procure what they need.  But she avoids shopping online for Baptist Health’s needs.

“There’s a lot of counterfeit things out there and gray market and that’s the last thing we want here is to have counterfeit or gray market items because again patient focus and we do not want to put any patient at risk,” Farmer said.

When supplies does get low and there is no way to get a large amount of whatever it is she will see if there are ways staff can stretch the usage. Whether it be the ability to reuse certain items or limiting how much something is used.

“I think that’s gonna be the focus for at least the next 2 to 3 years probably for supply chain it’s just gonna be something as simple as sustainability,” Farmer explained.

She is on the phone most of her day wheeling and dealing with manufacturers and other suppliers to get things.

Whenever she does meet a need for the hospital, the celebration is usually short-lived before another issue presents itself.

“So do I ever take a deep breath and think I can kinda relax? I haven’t found that place yet, I’m looking, I’m waiting on it. I’m hoping that maybe this year I’ll be able to!” Farmer exclaimed.

Farmer also notes Baptist doesn’t horde items.  They have a healthy supply of things in their warehouse but have given supplies away when they are needed by other entities. 

They have donated masks to Little Rock School District and also helped out smaller, rural hospitals with supplies when they have not been able to procure their own.